Earth was hit by an unusually long-lasting pulse on October 9, which has raised global curiosity. The high-energy radiation that swept over Earth is likely from the birth of a black hole and is called a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB), which originated 1.9 billion years ago.
The burst was detected for nearly 10 hours and astronomers believe that the explosion was closer to us.
The mysterious pulse, traveling at the speed of light, took 1.9 billion years to reach Earth and is from one of the most powerful class of explosions in the universe – that ranks among the most luminous events known.
The high radiation was picked up by detectors across the world when they arrived and swept through the solar system at incredible speeds. Detectors aboard Nasa’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and Wind spacecraft picked up the sudden jump in energy levels as astronomers trained telescopes to pick up the unique signatures of the radiation.
Scientists have named it GRB 221009A and it originated from the direction of the constellation Sagitta, which had traveled an estimated 1.9 billion years to reach Earth. Nasa said that the burst provides a long-awaited inaugural observing opportunity for a link between two experiments on the International Space Station – NICER X-ray telescope and a Japanese detector called the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI).
The Orbiting High-energy Monitor Alert Network (OHMAN) allows NICER to rapidly turn to outbursts detected by MAXI. “OHMAN provided an automated alert that enabled NICER to follow up within three hours, as soon as the source became visible to the telescope. Future opportunities could result in response times of a few minutes,” said Zaven Arzoumanian, the NICER science lead.
“This burst is much closer than typical GRBs, which is exciting because it allows us to detect many details that otherwise would be too faint to see. But it’s also among the most energetic and luminous bursts ever seen regardless of distance, making it doubly exciting,” Roberta Pillera, a Fermi LAT Collaboration member who led initial communications about the burst and a doctoral student at the Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy said.
The explosion marks the birth of a black hole that formed in the heart of a massive star collapsing under its own weight. The radiation is the jets of particles traveling near the speed of light piercing through the star, emitting X-rays and gamma rays as they stream into space.
Nasa in a release said that the light from this ancient explosion brings with it new insights into the birth of a black hole, the behavior and interaction of matter near the speed of light, the conditions in a distant galaxy – and much more.
“Another GRB this bright may not appear for decades,” Nasa said.